Hello. We are John and Betty Doering. We lost our youngest daughter, Twila Jane Doering Wiley on August 7, 2003. Twila, who had just turned 21 and was pregnant with her first child, was killed by one shot to the head. Her body was found at our local park. We know the truth will come out but it is very hard waiting. We are determined to touch all the bases in remembering and honoring our sweet and beautiful abruptly departed daughter and our expected grandchild. Both of them as well as her family and friends that also were senselessly victimized by this loss deserve nothing less.
We know that Twila is among a flight of angels now and looks down on us smiling!
Death scene looked wrong, officers testify
Monroe County’s coroner and an Illinois State Police investigator testified Thursday that there was something peculiar about the way Twila Wiley’s body was found in August 2003 that suggested to them that she had been murdered. The coroner, Julie Gummersheimer, and Trooper Benjamin Koch were among the officials who were summoned to Konarcik Park in Waterloo on the night of Aug. 7, 2003, after Wiley’s husband, James C. Wiley, reported that his pregnant wife had committed suicide. Testifying on Thursday in James Wiley’s murder trial, Gummersheimer and Koch said that there was something odd about the way her belongings were arrayed near her body when it was found in a creek bed north of the park’s lake. A 9-mm semiautomatic pistol lay at her right side alongside a nearly empty can of Pepsi and the contents of her purse, including a small spiral notebook. A gun lock was found tucked inside her handbag. “To me, the scene didn’t appear proper,” Gummersheimer said. “Everything seemed to be too ‘in place,’ which alerted me that something was up.” Koch, an Illinois State Police crime scene investigator, said he drew a similar conclusion when he arrived at the scene. While he was being cross-examined by Wiley’s defense attorney, John O’Gara, Koch denied that he had told others at the scene that it appeared to have been “staged” to look like a suicide. “The scene did not appear right to me,” Koch testified. Wiley, 26, sat impassively through nearly seven hours of testimony Thursday. He has been charged with first-degree murder, homicide of an unborn child, concealing a homicide and obstructing justice. Authorities have suggested that Wiley may have become enraged at his wife because she was cheating on him. During opening arguments on Wednesday, O’Gara said that he would present evidence that Twila Wiley had become despondent and had committed suicide, using the gun that her husband kept in his nightstand. O’Gara also said that he would detail several sloppy mistakes that Waterloo investigators made that undermined the investigation. Although the defense is not expected to begin presenting its case until next week, O’Gara began picking apart the accounts of several law enforcement witnesses on Thursday during cross-examination. O’Gara got one prosecution witness, Capt. Suzanne Sweet of the Waterloo Police Department, to acknowledge that she executed a search warrant at the Wileys’ apartment within days of Twila Wiley’s death without first notifying the Illinois State Police. The Illinois State Police was the lead agency investigating Twila Wiley’s death. Under cross-examination, Sweet also acknowledged that she found an empty gun box and a leather gun pouch in the Wileys’ bedroom but did not take them into evidence. Earlier, O’Gara asked Koch, the State Police investigator, why Twila Wiley’s hands were not tested for gunpowder residue at the scene. Koch had testified that he placed paper bags over her hands at the scene to preserve blood evidence. “The gunshot residue folks don’t like it when you put bags on the hands before a gunshot residue test,” O’Gara told Koch. Koch told O’Gara under cross-examination that he returned to the morgue at St. Mary’s Hospital in East St. Louis several days after Twila’s body was found. He said he was looking for bruises, which can suggest that a victim struggled with an assailant and which often do not appear until several days after death. Koch said he found “nothing remarkable” on Twila Wiley’s body. “That is no defensive wounds?” O’Gara asked. “No scrapes?” “No, sir,” Koch said.
as delivered by
Annie Rieken, Aug 13 2003
Peace be to this house, again I say, Peace be to this house. Luke 10:5
Twila’s family honors me in the privilege of delivering these thoughts and remembrances. I’ve had a lot of help putting these reflections into a perspective that we hope will be restorative but more importantly inspire some closure and hope for aching hearts.
Did you all see the beautiful happiness collage that the family put together? As challenging as that must have been for the family to coordinate just a few evenings after Twila’s passing, I believe it must have been very therapeutic to touch back on those times and events when Twila’s world was part of their own.
She was a loved child, she knew it, and it showed in that smile that only Twila had. I know that she enjoyed her birthday parties, and Christmases, Easters and all the family celebration times, which build memories and lay solid foundations in a young mind. Twila did understand the principles of the Bible, she knew right from wrong, she memorized scriptural poems Grandma taught, and she remembered who Christ is. Once you know Christ, he never forgets you.
Twila had a unique character, tender and tough at the same time. I’ve seen her kiss her cat and known her to lay someone out for double-crossing her. In school counseling terms, we call young people like Twila “strong willed”; leave it to Twila to put a new edge to that meaning. Sometimes the very personality trait we most fear in our children is the very same character we admire in adults. These are the kids that are intense, hard to handle; almost impossible to steer in any direction but their own path, but eventually they grow up to be exemplary adults when they’ve had a good start. She was definitely a strong willed individual and by the time she was a young teen, she had made her own decision to chart her life journey on a course that John and Betty knew would be challenging.
Being a teen bride is always formidable, but she took her commitment seriously. Don’t we always want to spare our children from a struggle? When you raise a strong-willed child, at a point, you have to make the decision to let them go on their own journey or you face the realization that you will lose them. You could never force Twila into a mold she could not abide by. I know that John and Betty did everything within their human capacity to try to help Twila make sound decisions. This was one young woman who needed her life on her own terms. I want you folks, John and Betty, to remember you laid the proper foundations, and you planted the right seeds. She always knew her family loved her. She always knew the door was open to her.
Yesterday morning I went and spoke to the women Twila worked with and through their tears they told me some really wonderful things about her. Twila trained a young woman, Meg, who was Twila’s age. They were the youngest of the work crew. Meg told me how much she admired Twila. She told me that Twila never made her feel foolish or inept while she was learning. Twila was patient with her, understanding, and encouraged her. One of the others stated that Twila took her position there very responsibly. She was good with the customers and the other associates. John and Betty, they admired her work ethic. That comes from something she learned in her home life with you. Meg, Twila’s work buddy, said very sincerely to me, “she was a really good human, she definitely needs to be remembered.” I assured her that would be no problem.
Before I left their store, Meg approached me and said one last thing. She said that one big thing she admired about Twila was that she was non-judgmental. Twila confided to Meg that she had had some scrapes when she was younger but that she had not necessarily wanted too many people to know that about her. She didn’t want to be judged by the way she used to be, she wanted to be known for how she was now. She told Meg that she didn’t want to be judged so in turn she didn’t judge others. This statement tells me that Twila saw her life moving into a new or different phase. She most certainly saw her life journey as having a “then” and a “now.”
Twila specifically stated that she did not want to be judged and there is a lesson for us all in her statement. For all the questions left surrounding Twila’s departure from this Earth, we are charged not to judge. We need to turn this all over to God. It is hard to trust in God’s plan when we feel so miserable and can’t begin to put the pieces into any semblance of order. It does feel like a nightmare that we wish we could wake up from. Turn it over to God. He will give us peace. He is personal; he never left Twila, at any point of her life or death. We don’t know why things happen the way they do sometimes, this is where we have to trust in the creator’s will.
All things work for good to those who believe. That may sound like such a hollow statement at this time of grief. Can we rest knowing that the moment Twila’s spirit left her body she and her baby were instantly in heaven? Scripture tells us in eight places the reassurance that we instantly go to heaven on our death, that is a immediate and easy as stepping through a door. We will all be reunited with our families and friends some day. You will know the baby. We have to wait in the now and fulfill the lessons a tragedy of this magnitude leaves for us. Somehow, some day the reason will be known. Where Twila and the baby are now is in a perfection our human minds cannot comprehend. There is peace, love, joy, contentment and all the aspects of completion that our human understanding cannot hold.
John, Betty, Janay, Candy, Troy, other close family and friends; grief in this proportion takes some time to come to terms with. It will rise up and go away in the most unexpected places. The adversary loves times of sorrow to double your anguish. Satan will try to fill your memories with self-recrimination, doubt, anger and just about every form of unjustified guilt you can imagine. I exhort you all to resist him. In our minds, we can not hold two conflicting thoughts. We cannot hold a negative and a positive simultaneously. God’s word and love always remain more powerful over anything the adversary tries. I encourage you to memorize a simple line of scripture or think of a mission statement that will sustain you in the mental assault to come.
Simple scriptural passages such as:
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Or
“He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
Only God can fill the giant hole left by this experience. These words will lend comfort. God is personal, call on him.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present or the future, nor any powers, height or depth nor anything ,else in all creations will be able to separate us from the love of God. Romans 8 :38
Peace be to this house.
Trial opens in death of pregnant wife
Twila Wiley had just learned that she was pregnant when she was found shot to death in Waterloo’s Konarcik Park in August 2003, prosecutors said Wednesday at opening arguments in the murder trial of her husband, James Wiley. Kris Reitz, the Monroe County state’s attorney, and 15 prosecution witnesses said Wednesday that Twila Wiley, 21, was thrilled to learn that she was pregnant with her first child. Her face was brighter, they said, and she appeared to be patching up her marriage. The couple, married for five years, recently had moved out of James Wiley’s parents’ house into their first apartment. Reitz sketched a portrait of Twila Wiley as a young woman who had everything to live for when she was murdered on Aug. 7, 2003.By contrast, James Wiley’s attorney, John O’Gara, said that he would prove that “Twila Wiley had reached the end, that she took that gun, put it to her head and took her own life.” So began the murder trial of James Wiley, 26, in circuit court in Waterloo. James Wiley’s brother, Michael, 30, has been charged with concealing a homicide, obstructing justice and concealing a firearm. Police have said Michael helped his brother to make her death look like a suicide. O’Gara also said the Waterloo police made several sloppy mistakes in the early stages of their investigation, which he promised to detail for jurors next week. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty for James Wiley. In all, prosecutors plan to call about 40 witnesses, a process that is likely to occupy the court through Friday. The defense is expected to begin presenting its case on Monday. “This is going to take a while,” Reitz told jurors on Wednesday. The first witness was Twila Wiley’s mother, Betty Doering. Doering said that she had been estranged from her youngest daughter for a time after her marriage to James Wiley in 1998, but that the two had reconciled not long before Twila’s death. At least once in the summer of 2003, Twila sought refuge at her parents’ house during a fight with James, Doering said. “She was eager to have her baby,” Doering said. “She was very happy about it.” Police have alleged that James Wiley may have been motivated to kill his wife because she was having an extramarital affair. One prosecution witness who testified Wednesday, Charles P. Southerland, 27, said that he and Twila Wiley had a brief affair within weeks of her death, while both were working at the Dollar Tree store on Illinois Route 3 in Waterloo. Southerland said she was angry that her husband had brought a gun into their house – the same 9 mm pistol that was found with her body. “It’s Waterloo, everybody has a gun,” Southerland said. But, he said, Twila Wiley “just didn’t want it in the house.” Southerland said he last saw her the day before she died. She was in the parking lot outside the Dollar Tree store. She told him she was pregnant, he said. “She was happy,” Southerland said. “And when I say ‘happy,’ I mean she glowed.” Other witnesses testified that they saw the woman in Konarcik Park the afternoon of Aug. 7, 2003. Some said that they saw James and Michael Wiley driving around the park in a small red car late that afternoon. Five witnesses who were picnicking in one of the park’s pavilions that night, said they heard a single gunshot about 8:25 p.m.
Trial Begins For Man Accused Of Murdering Pregnant Wife
(KSDK) – Jury selection will begin Tuesday morning in the first degree murder trial of a man accused of killing his pregnant wife in a Monroe County, Illinois city park. James Wiley, 27, of Waterloo is accused of fatally shooting his wife, Twila Wiley, 21, and staging the crime scene to appear as though the woman had killed herself. Investigators discovered the victim’s body on the ground of Konarcik Park in Waterloo in August 2003, and early on considered the possibility of suicide, but quickly changed their minds and initiated what would be a year-long murder investigation. In October 2004, police arrested Wiley and his older brother who prosecutors say participated in the crime by concealing the murder and obstructing justice in the lengthy investigation. James Wiley is charged with the murder as well as causing the intentional death of his wife’s unborn child, concealing the homicide, and obstruction of justice. Monroe County Prosecutors are expected to take most of Tuesday selecting a panel to hear the case. Opening statements could come as early as Wednesday morning.
Wiley arrests give Doerings hope
John and Betty Doering of Waterloo tried to extend the benefit of doubt to their son-in-law, but suspected almost from the very beginning of their Aug. 7, 2003, nightmare that James C. Wiley murdered their daughter Twila Jane Wiley. Friday, Wiley, 26, and his brother Michael J. Wiley, 29, were taken into custody by the Waterloo Police Department and charged in Twila Wiley’s death and that of her unborn child. On Saturday—a few hours after learning of the arrests—John Doering said it was a “day to cheer” and said he had been on his “last flicker of hope.” John Doering said in an e-mail message Oct. 4 he had hopes the case would break “soon”—”This could be the pivotal week.” Doering, whose physical and psychological distress has been manifest the past year or so, said “much stiffness . . .left my body overnight,” giving way to “comfortably numb elation” after the arrests were announced. Monroe County State’s Attorney Kris Reitz had requested and obtained a warrant to arrest the Wiley brothers from Circuit Judge Patrick Young on Thursday. Police have not disclosed whether the Wileys surrendered or were picked up. James Wiley stands charged with first-degree murder, intentional homicide of an unborn child, concealment of a homicide and obstruction of justice. Michael Wiley is charged with concealment of a homicide, obstruction of justice and unlawful sale of a firearm—to his brother James, who since 1996 has been a convicted felon. The Monday before the arrests, Betty Doering had helped the Violence Prevention Center of Southwestern Illinois pass out flyers and other material for National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. She said at the time she had gotten more involved in victim’s rights issues since her daughter’s murder. She and her husband had also started combing Internet Web sites to learn more about cases similar to her daughter’s and had even shared theories and information they had gleaned there with local police. The police department, however, politely thanked them for their input, but did not use any of it in their investigation of the Wiley murders.
Husband Arrested In 14-Month-Old Murder
After 14 months of investigation, two arrests are made in the death of 21-year-old Twila Wiley. Her husband James Wiley and his brother Michael are behind bars. Twila was found shot in the head at a park in Waterloo, Illinois, back in August of 2003.
Twila’s father, John Doering, went to the murder site Friday he says to try and accept his daughter’s murder would never be solved. But when he returned home he received the news. “It’s a great sense of relief was my immediate reaction,” said Twila’s father John Doering. His next reaction was to call his wife at work. “She said she had to call the police station,” he recalls. She was in disbelief. Twila’s family had almost given up hope on resolving her murder. “As soon as I accepted it wasn’t gonna happen, here it happens,” said Doering.
Twila’s husband of five years, James Wiley, was arrested and charged Friday with first degree murder and intentional homicide of an unborn child. “The grandchild we’d be bouncing around right now,” said John. Twila was two weeks pregnant when her lifeless body was found in a Waterloo park 14 months ago. A weapon was found at the scene. It was registered to Michael Wiley, James’s brother. Michael is charged with concealing a homicide and obstruction of justice.
“This is the first step I hope in rightful rightful justice,” said Doering.
The arrests come as a relief not only to Twila Jane’s family but for police. “For about the past 14 months this was always on my mind. It’s taken a long time but we’re here,” said Waterloo Police Chief Joseph Brauer. Chief Brauer commends good police work and technology for the break in the case. He says a backlog with Illinois State Police is one reason why it took it so long. “They are extremely overworked and you more or less have to wait for their findings,” said Brauer. He would not comment on what technology led to the arrests.
As for James and Michael Wiley, their cases will be heard in court come November. They remain in jail, James on one million dollars bond and Michael on 100,000 dollars bond. “Maybe they should get out when she comes home,” said Doering defiantly. John and Betty Doering say they still don’t have complete peace of mind. Twila’s grave remains without a headstone. James Wiley is in a dispute with them over what the inscription on the tombstone should be.
Police Hope To Make Arrest Soon In Year Old Wiley Murder Case
By Kim Hibbs
(KSDK) — It’s been nearly a year since the body of a pregnant woman was found in a Waterloo, Illinois park. Twila Wiley’s body was found August 7, 2003 in Konarcik Park, a handgun was at her side. One year later, those involved in the case talk about their emotions that range from sadness and sorrow, to frustration and even optimism.
Looking at old pictures of his daughter, John Doering says, “Her spirit and memory are always available. (These pictures) are therapeutic in a way.” The crime is still fresh in the memory of Waterloo Police Chief Joe Brauer who visits the crime scene at least once a month. “I look around to see what I may have missed. To see if I overlooked anything that I need to look at again,” says Brauer.
A small memorial marks the spot 21-year old Twila Wiley’s body was found. Wiley’s husband told police she committed suicide. But he hasn’t said anything since. That is why police call him a “person of interest.” “You report a suicide, then decline to talk about it, or clear it up, or help clear it up, it raises suspicion obviously,” says Brauer.
“I know the Waterloo Police Department has been working hard. I don’t know about anybody else,” wonders Doering. He’s frustrated the investigation into his daughter’s death is taking so long. Chief Brauer says that’s because evidence from the case is sent to the Illinois State Police and local FBI office, which processes information from across the state. Chief
A coroner’s jury ruled Twila’s death a homicide. The gun that killed Twila belonged to her husband’s brother. Brauer expects to make arrest in the case within the next month, which would bring some closure to the family. “A good sense of relief that the next step is accomplished,” says Doering.
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Police chief predicts break in year-old killing of woman
By Michael Shaw
Of the Post-Dispatch
Twila Wiley, 21, was found shot in the head in a Waterloo park almost a year ago. No one has been charged in her death. Waterloo Police Chief Joe Brauer says that one or more arrests are forthcoming in the year-old killing of a 21-year-old pregnant woman beside a secluded creekbed in a Waterloo park. Next Saturday marks the one-year anniversary of the discovery of Twila Wiley’s body. She had been shot in the head. The case has produced no arrests, and little news, but Brauer said in an interview last week that the case isn’t cold.
Four crime experts have been brought in to examine the evidence, he said. And he’s still waiting for reports such as a profile of the crime from the FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program. “Results are forthcoming. An arrest is forthcoming,” Brauer said, although he did not put a time frame on that prediction. Officers haven’t identified any suspects publicly. Brauer is now describing Wiley’s husband, James Wiley, as a “person of interest” in the case. “We’re focusing our attention on him and maybe more than him,” Brauer said during a brief interview. “The investigation is centered on him.” James Wiley reported his wife’s death in person to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department on Aug. 7 of last year, while accompanied by his mother.
Twila Wiley was killed with a handgun owned by her husband’s brother, police said. A day after her death, police charged her husband with illegally possessing the gun used to kill her – a charge his attorney disputes. James Wiley, 25, a construction worker, was convicted of burglary in 1996 and therefore barred from possessing a firearm. Investigators have not explained why they believe he possessed the gun that was used to shoot his wife. James Wiley, who is free on bond on the firearms charge, declined through his lawyer to be interviewed.
Twila Wiley was about two weeks pregnant when she was killed. She seemed at a crossroads – a teen bride who had lived for years in the same home with her in-laws. She and her husband had moved out to their own apartment six days before she was killed. Twila Wiley’s father, John Doering, of Waterloo, says he sometimes wonders why his daughter’s case has not drawn more attention. “If she had been missing, this would’ve been a bigger thing,” he suggests, referring to the Laci Peterson case in California and the case of a missing young married pregnant woman in Salt Lake City. “I don’t know why these other cases get the attention they do. Why isn’t this case like that?”
One reason may be that police didn’t officially call Twila Wiley’s death a homicide until more than two months after she was killed, referring to it only as “suspicious.” At the early stages, suicide was still considered a possibility by police. A Waterloo woman had hanged herself just days before Wiley died, but the city hadn’t had a murder since 1993. Then a crime scene analysis came back showing no gunpowder traces on Wiley’s hands. Hearing that evidence, a coroner’s jury ruled it was a homicide last October. The scene may have been staged in some way to look like a suicide, Brauer said, although he declined to offer details.
The possibility of suicide is still viable, according to James Wiley’s lawyer, Justin Kuehn of Belleville. Last week Kuehn filed a motion to have police turn over more evidence in the firearms case against his client. “We have reason to believe that contained within those materials are documents and other evidence demonstrating whether or not this was a homicide or suicide,” the motion states. Kuehn declined to comment.
Illinois outlaws the intentional homicide of an unborn child. Monroe County State’s Attorney Kris Reitz said such a charge is a possibility if an arrest is made in the case. Reitz confirmed that the investigation is continuing, including examination of the evidence by experts as recently as last week.
John and Betty Doering are reluctant to say much about their daughter’s death, wary of upsetting the investigation. But John Doering, a retired postal worker, did want to talk about Twila’s life. The family, which includes two other daughters and a son, moved to Waterloo from San Bernardino, Calif., where Twila had lived for about half her life. He said she was a scrappy teen who had to earn a GED after she was kicked out of school for fighting with another student. “She was the easiest one to raise for a long time, then she became the hardest to raise real quick,” he said while discussing the downward spiral of their relationship. He said Twila met James Wiley when she was 14 and James was about 17. The teens became inseparable.
He told a story of returning to his home to find James helping Twila install a lock on her bedroom door. Two years later, when Twila was 16, the Doerings allowed their daughter to marry, and she moved in with James Wiley and his family. The Doerings gave permission for the marriage, a requirement for a bride that young, but they did so reluctantly, John Doering said. Twila Wiley and her husband filed a protective order against John Doering in 1999, prompting him to write a rambling seven-page letter to the judge in the case. “Man, who is this guy and what has he done to my daughter?” he asks at one point. “Twila only came back into my life in May, a few months before she was killed,” he said. “I saw her at the Post Office. She came in and said, ‘Hi, Dad.’ She had been reconnecting with my wife for about two years.”
Brauer, the Waterloo police chief, is a veteran of the St. Louis Police Department, including five years as a homicide detective in the 1980s. He had been on the job as chief for only a few months when the call came in about Twila Wiley. “There has been no cooperation from the husband,” Brauer said of the investigation so far. Both he and the Doerings said that James Wiley did not attend the coroner’s inquest into his wife’s death or a candlelight vigil for crime victims that included Twila. “When you don’t have any cooperation, you have to start from scratch,” Brauer said.
Although secluded by woods, the spot where Twila Wiley died is a popular rendezvous for local teens. It’s at least 100 feet from the open area of the city’s Konarcik Park, and “pitch black at night,” according to Brauer. A narrow trail leads right to the spot. A small waterfall rushes past rocks etched with graffiti; some love vows carved into the stone there date back more than 40 years. The bullet that killed Twila Wiley went through her head and struck the face of those rocks. Her body was tucked under a waist-high overhang.
John and Betty Doering placed candles and flowers at the site. The flowers have wilted. One of the candleholders has been swept away. Twila Wiley is buried in Springfield, Mo., where her mother’s family resides. Her father said her grave isn’t marked with a headstone. There is still a dispute with James Wiley over the inscription, he said. Doering said he’d rather not discuss it. He said, “This is the darkest period of our lives.”